Sen. Markwayne Mullin Lowballed Plumbing Salary in Fight With Teamsters

  • Republican Senator Markwayne Mullin had a heated argument with the head of a union on Wednesday.
  • Mullin claimed he only paid himself a $50,000 salary and “invested every penny” into his business.
  • But he’d reported his private-sector salary at $92,000, with another $200,000 in income.

A Republican senator drastically understated how much money he made in the private sector as he argued with the head of the Teamsters union at a hearing in Washington on Wednesday.

While lambasting Teamsters president Sean O’Brien for his nearly $200,000 salary, Oklahoma’s Senator Markwayne Mullin claimed that he paid himself a salary of just $50,000 when he ran a plumbing business. But his financial disclosures show his salary was nearly $92,000 in 2012, the year he was first elected to Congress. His total income was even greater.

“What did you make when you owned your company?” O’Brien asked.

“When I made my company? I kept my salary down at about $50,000 a year because I invested every penny into it,” Mullin replied.

Like many business owners, Mullin’s biggest source of income wasn’t his salary. He reported between $200,000 and $2 million in income in 2012 from two family companies, Mullin Plumbing Inc. and Mullin Plumbing West, and another $15,000 to $50,000 from shares he held in a bank.

In 2011, Mullin also made well over $50,000. His salary was over $77,000 and his other income from the same two businesses was also over $200,000. He also reported over $50,000 in rent that year from Mullin Properties.

Mullin’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which is chaired by the democratic socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, was focused on “Defending the Right of Workers to Organize.” Before questioning O’Brien, Mullin described himself as a job creator and said in 2009, a union tried to intimidate his workers into unionizing.

“I started with nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, I started below nothing. And I started growing this little plumbing company with six employees, to now, we have over 300 employees,” he said.

O’Brien seemed to enjoy sparring with Mullin on Wednesday. He could be seen grinning at one point, and after the hearing tweeted information from more recent financial disclosures about Mullin’s being worth tens of millions of dollars. 

The Tulsa World reported in October that Mullin’s wealth ballooned to at least $31 million after the apparent sale of his plumbing business to HomeTown Services, a residential heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical company.

Mullin has served on Capitol Hill since 2012 and was elected to the Senate in a special election last year. He is a member of the Cherokee nation and the only Native American member of the Senate.

He is known for having clashed with State Department officials in 2021 as he sought to get into Afghanistan on a self-appointed rescue mission.

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